Jacob giggled as he splashed around in the wash basin on the kitchen counter. At nine months old, he was getting just big enough that he could stand up on his own.
Melody had to keep him in the basin as she ran the shampoo through his hair. She stood washing our son as I thumbed through the Facebook app on my phone. I clicked through to a Cracked article about scenes from comic book movies when I heard Jacob shriek.
“There there baby. Mommy didn’t mean to get the soap in your eyes,” Melody sighed.
I kept reading the article as she washed our beautiful son. This was my morning routine. The baby would get a bath, I drank my coffee and sat with my wife. Melody stayed home with the goober and I went to work for a few hours. I’d come home and Jacob would waddle around the living room floor with a little Fischer Price bubble mower I’d bought him. It was beyond cute. Say what you will, but it is the simple things that make life worth living. I can’t imagine life without my little goober.
Things were good for once. Mel had a bout of postpartum depression after Jacob had been born, but a few days in the hospital and a script for Prozac, she seemed to be fine. It had been six months without incident. I was worried to leave her alone with the child, so I hired a nanny during that time. I ended up letting her go though, she was young and pretty. Melody got jealous. I will admit to playfully flirting with the nanny, but I’d never cheat on my wife. It was just bad timing.
The other day I was at work when Melody texted me a picture of Jacob giggling in the wash basin. He was holding a rubber ducky and smiling from ear to ear. The text below read: “Wishing Daddy was here.”
“I’ll have to stay late. Megan wants me to go over the second quarter numbers with the A & R guys,” I texted.
She texted back a frowny face emote. A few minutes later she sent a follow-up text.
“Been working late a lot lately. Should I worry”
I was in a meeting and my phone was on vibrate. I didn’t respond for the better part of an hour. She sent nearly 20 texts in that time.
“Why won’t you respond? Did I say something wrong?”
“Fine, fuck you! Fuck that home-wrecking whore!”
“I’m sorry baby. I’m just having a rough day.”
“I’m going to spoil you when I get home. You know you’re the only girl for me,” I wrote back.
I got off work at around seven and quickly headed over to Boston Market to pick up some dinner.
I walked in the front door with fresh cut white roses and a grilled chicken with sauteed potatoes.
“Honey, I’m home,” I shouted.
The house was silent. I walked into the kitchen saw the wash basin dumped out on the floor. I heard water running in the bathroom. Confused, I walked over to the bathroom door. It was locked. I knocked.
“Hey honey, I brought dinner.”
No answer. Nothing. Only the sound of water pouring into the tub came through the door.
“Honey, you’re starting to worry me!” I shouted. I banged on the door.
I started to tremble. I was freaking out. I was being incredibly loud and Jacob wasn’t making a sound. He wasn’t crying. I didn’t hear him at all. Normally the slightest cough would set him off at night. He was sleeping soundly through my freakout. This concerned me. I abandoned the bathroom and rushed to his crib. It was empty. I rushed back to the bathroom and kicked it in. Hot steam blew past me as I rushed in to see the words, “I’m done!” scrawled on the mirror in lipstick.
I ran back to the kitchen and noticed the back door was slightly ajar. I rushed outside and in the process I fell to my knees. I saw Melody hanging from the oak tree. A bundle of cloth sat motionless at her feet. I crawled to my feet and staggered over to the cloth in horror. Jacob. It was Jacob. He was cold to the touch. I shouted an incoherent string of curses before scooping up my son. He coughed and let out a little whimper. I immediately called 9-1-1. He had a broken clavicle and stage one hypothermia, along with a few other complications. Melody had been dead for hours. A note found in the front pocket of her apron: “I’ll never be as loved as I was when I was pregnant, but I don’t want to bear the thought of losing another life from inside me. I’m done.”
I would later find she had put every single pill she was supposed to take in a box she kept in the kitchen. Six months of Prozac sat in a metal tin just to the side of the spice rack. I knew she had issues with depression, but I can’t help but think I could have done more. It was with a heavy heart that I pulled up the nanny cam. I had put it in on a whim when we first let the nanny go. I’d never bothered to check it before because everything seemed fine. I really wish I had.
The first video entry of note occurred about two weeks prior to the suicide. The camera in the kitchen shows me walking into the hallway and Melody washing Jacob. Everything seems pretty normal until Jacob starts crying again.
>“Stop crying you little shit! I wish I’d aborted you!” Melody shouted.
I paused the video and stepped outside for a moment. I couldn’t bear the thought of my son going through such a thing. My main hope was that he wouldn’t remember it.
I fast-forwarded through several days of video before I got to the day of the suicide. Each showed exaggerated hand gestures and pacing consistent with someone who was more than a little off-kilter. It’s more that I couldn’t bring myself to watch it. Jacob was still in the hospital. I should have been there with him, but I had to know what brought all of this on.
Jacob is playing in the living room as Melody sits on the couch texting. She smiles at first, but over time, she gets more visibly agitated. Jacob falls down and starts crying.
“WAHHHH WAAHH KEEP CRYING YOU LITTLE SHIT!” she shouted.
Any feelings of regret I had faded as a righteous anger welled up from inside me. That was my son she was talking to. She got up and stood over him shouting incoherently before sending another text and throwing the phone across the room. She picked Jacob up by the arm and carried him screaming into the kitchen.
She filled the wash basin with water.
“The only time you ever seem happy is in the tub you little shithead. Here have a fucking bath!” she shouted.
I watched in horror as she roughly scrubbed my screaming son. In a fit of rage she grabbed the basin by the sides and shoved it onto the floor. My baby son fell to the floor screaming. Melody disappeared into the utility closet with a rope and came back to sit at the table writing a note as Jacob continued to scream.
She then wrapped the baby in a blanket and walked outside. I’d seen enough. I made a copy of the video and saved it to a thumb drive I dropped off with the police on the way to the hospital. I spent the rest of the night in a recliner holding my son. I called into work the next day — my boss didn’t say a word. Jacob isn’t responding to stimuli like he used to. The doctors tell me there might be permanent brain damage. Even when he is awake, he doesn’t smile anymore. I’d give anything to have my giggling little goober back, but now when I hold him there is nothing but an empty look in his eyes. It’s like he isn’t there anymore.